Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spring Break

We just got back from a fun and busy trip to San Diego for Easter Break.  We planned this trip over a year ago so that we could be sure to get a spot at Capri By The Sea.  After we booked our condo, I asked my parents if they wanted to join us.  They are always up for another trip and immediately booked their condo about 20 minutes north of Pacific Beach.

Our current family vehicle has been having issues with the transmission, heat/ac and needed new tires which made driving it to California not a safe option.  After looking at renting a car, flying or buying a new car, Gavin decided it was time for us to buy our very first brand new car.  The boys were so excited and went with him to pick it up.

We drove all day and made it to San Diego just in time to get settled in the condo and go to sleep.  We woke up the next morning and opened up the curtains and couldn’t get over the view.  

Pacific Beach
We grabbed some yummy breakfast at a little spot on Pacific Beach boardwalk called Konos and then headed down to the beach for the day.  It was sunny but the wind made it chilly.   Apparently not too cold for Gavin and the boys who spent most of the time out in the freezing water, boogy boarding.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to go to church in San Diego.  It was so good for my kids to see the diversity that the church offers outside of Utah.   They all said that it was the best sacrament they had ever been to and that they learned so much.  There was a sweet spirit present as we listened to so many newer converts share their testimonies.  And hearing Gavin share his testimony of the Book of Mormon and prayer was just an added bonus.

Balboa Park
After church we headed to Balboa Park for the free Sunday afternoon organ concert and (not-free) lunch.

We walked through the International Cottages and grabbed lots of free samples and since it was House of England’s turn to host there was a Beatles impersonator band and lots of English people walking (and bike riding) around.  We even saw people dressed up as characters from Alice in Wonderland.

Mormon Battalion Historic Site
We finished off the afternoon with a tour of the Mormon Battalion Museum.  We took the kids here 3 years ago but only the big kids remembered it.  Mia loved how the photos inside the picture frames came to life to take us through the tour.  “We should get pictures like that in our house, Mom!” And Mia even got to dress up in all of the gear that they soldiers wore in the battalion.

At the end of the tour the kids got to go back in time and pan for “fool’s gold”, wash clothes by hand and pretend to make bricks.

La Jolla Tide Pools and Children’s Beach 
The next day we drove into La Jolla for a kayaking tour.  Only we were 30 minutes late and had to reschedule for another day.  We drove a few blocks down to the tide pools and walked around looking for sea life.  It definitely didn’t compare to the tide pools we went to 3 years ago at Cabrillo but Jack and Ryan did find a few crabs.  We walked over to Children’s Beach and saw lots of seals (including ourselves) sunbathing on the rocks.

Universal Studios 
We only wanted to spend one day at an amusement park and gave the older kids the option of Sea World, Knott’s Berry Farm or Universal Studios.  They wanted to try somewhere new and chose Universal Studios.  We drove 2 hours from our condo to Universal Studios.  Morgan was so nervous the whole ride up and walking into the park.  She is not a fan of scary, fast rides.  We only had her go on the new Despicable Me ride and The Simpsons ride.  She didn’t like The Simpsons ride but acted like she liked DM even though she didn’t want to go on it again.  The big kids loved the Transformers and Mummy rides but everyone’s favorite was the Studio Tour.  Even though Morgan doesn’t like amusement parks at the time, it seems like she likes it after we are all done and back home.  She talks about Shrek 4D movie and that Princess Fiona needed help all of the time now.  Just wish she could enjoy it more while it was happening but the fear of the unknown takes away all of the fun for her.  Grandma and Grandpa joined us for the day and Ryan kept commenting on how cool it was that Grandma and Grandpa are so young at heart and go on all of the rides with us.

The next day we all just wanted to sleep in after walking all over Universal Studios and getting home late but no rest for the weary.  We had an early morning kayak tour set up in La Jolla.  We had already had to pay a $50 rescheduling fee for getting late and missing our first tour so we all woke up early and got ready to brave the cold waters.  Gavin, Jack and Ryan really braved the cold by not paying the extra $10 for a wetsuit rental.  We walked down to La Jolla and got into our kayak teams and headed out into the ocean.  I’m still not sure the purpose of our helmets.  Maybe it was just to let everyone else know that we didn’t know what we were doing.  The waves that we had to paddle over were huge, surfing waves.  The smallest person had to sit in the front of the kayak which meant that person got soaked on the way out to the smooth part of the ocean.  Poor Morgan, Mia, Griffin and Hadley. After the experience of the huge waves, Mia cried for remaining two hours of kayaking.  We kayaked over to some caves and then saw lots of sea lions on the rocks.  We all made it without tipping over except for Hadley and me.  We tipped over on the way back to the beach when we tried to go over a huge wave.

San Diego Temple
We spent the afternoon in the temple with Jack, Ryan and Hadley.  It was definitely a memorable experience.  Such a beautiful temple.

We’ve never taken the family over the bridge to Coronado Island and thought we’d try something new.  What a beautiful part of California!! We had so much fun walking around the island and seeing the San Diego skyline in the background.  We rented surreys that held 6 of us and rode around the island.  We rode around on the boardwalk for about 30 minutes.  That was long enough for it be fun and not exhausting. 

Jack and Ryan were crazy drivers and almost crashed into us several times.


Hotel del Coronado

Seaport Village
We drove back across the bridge to San Diego and went to Seaport Village to walk around and get some dinner.

Las Vegas
Crazy how quickly the week fly by!  I think we all wanted one more day to just hang out at the beach and condo but it was time to pack up and drive to Vegas for the weekend.  We stayed at South Point Hotel.  It’s about 10 minutes from the strip and has a movie theater and bowling.  We were all ready to be home and didn’t do too much.  Gavin took the Mia and Griffin bowling one night.  We met up with Jeff and Rae and went to the New York New York casino so the big kids (and Uncle Jeff) could all go on the roller coaster.  Then we made our way down the strip to Serendipity’s so Hadley could finally try a frrrrozen hot chocolate.  We stayed at the same hotel as Weichers but only saw Sylvie and Surie.

The Easter bunny found us at our hotel and left everyone a basket of goodies.  Each basket had confetti filled eggs that we thought would be fun to break out in the parking lot on our way home.  This fun event ended with lots of tears and a confetti mess all over the sidewalk and in our hair.


We had a yummy Easter dinner in St. George with Nan and Papa on our way back home.

What a great way to spend Easter break!  After 9 days and 2000 miles of driving, we were all ready to get back home, except for Morgan.  That girl LOVES vacations and being out of school and doing whatever we want everyday.  And I have to agree that nothing quite compares to being on vacation.  Until next time. . .  stay classy, San Diego!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Junior Prom

Jack is a junior this year and asked sophomore, Annie, to Junior Prom.  He dropped off a pillow at her house with this written on the pillowcase: “It’d make all my dreams come true to go to prom with a girl as sweet and pretty as you”.  He got answered a few weeks later, the night before we were leaving out of town for Spring Break.

Prom no longer means just dinner and the dance.  There is always a daytime activity as well.  He went in a big group of 16 couples.  They picked up their dates at 10 am and went on a morning hike up in the mountains.  Then they took their dates home to get ready for the dance and picked them up at 5 pm.  We got to see them all and take pictures at his friend’s, John’s, house before they left for dinner at Market Street Grill and the dance at Rice Eccles Stadium.

Jack and Annie

Everyone in the group--all 32 of them

The Swag Team
 John, Logan, Logan, Jack, Kade and Jace

The Boys

The Girls

After the dance they went to a church and watched a movie and played volleyball then took their dates home.  Jack got home at 1:15 and even though he doesn’t like to tell us too much but just wants to text his friends about the dance after he gets home, he said he had a great time and lots of fun with his friends and Annie.  Seems just like yesterday that I was going to my own Junior Prom.  And to now have a child old enough to be going to his own Junior Prom.  It really is crazy how quickly the days fly by and your kids go from busy, wild toddlers to busy, (hopefully not too) wild teenagers.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Big Sister

It was one of those nights . . . I couldn’t wait to have all of the kids in bed, a quiet house, and finally have a minute to sit down on the couch and relax while I watched some mindless show like The Bachelor.  Mia loves to read a story, sing a song and say a prayer before bed.  I was having a hard time thinking about tucking her in let alone spending 30 minutes to do it.  As I was walking Mia and Morgan upstairs for bed, Morgan grabbed her Pinkalicious book to read in bed.  Only Morgan doesn’t have any light in her room (we took the light bulbs out years ago so she couldn’t wake up and play in her room in the middle of the night) so I told her she could read her book in Mia’s room instead.  They climbed into Mia’s bed together and I realized I didn’t have to be the one reading the story to Mia-- Morgan and Mia could read the book together with Morgan’s help.

I’m not sure why I’ve never thought of having them do this before.  I was honestly filled with love and overwhelming gratitude that I get to be a mother as I sat on the end of Mia’s bed and watched two of my daughters help one another succeed.  “Awesome, Mia!”

Morgan doesn’t get very many opportunities to fill the "big sister" role or be a teacher to her younger siblings but reading is one area where Morgan excels.  I love that we almost always have our phones with us so that these moments can so easily be captured.  Morgan tries so hard to be patient with Mia but sometimes just can’t wait and blurts out the whole sentence before Mia even has a chance to try.

And one more tip . . .  always video your kids when it’s bedtime and they know they’re on borrowed time.  Behavior is always at it’s best!

Sunday, December 29, 2013


We had a very Merry Christmas!  It was filled with food, gifts, love, family, games, a movie and lots of boxes and wrapping paper!

Jack got just what he was asking for-- a Zagg iPad keyboard, Polo Red cologne, clothes and a few Xbox games.  I guess Santa didn’t get the memo about moving him to the naughty list for speeding  46 miles over the speed limit.

Ryan got a skateboard, black bear hamster, Disney Infinity figures, clothes and a watch.

Hadley got a new iPod screen, makeup, clothes and shoes, Katniss barbie, snow boots, Frozen soundtrack, necklace, books, scarf and hat.

Morgan got Elsa, Anna and Kristoff barbies from Disney Frozen.  She also got all of the barbies from her favorite show, Barbie In The Dreamhouse.  She spent the entire day singing Frozen songs with her new barbies and reading her new books.

Mia must have been really good because Santa brought her the American Girl doll (“Merragirl Doll”), Molly.  She’s her favorite doll because “her glasses make her look so cute” but unfortunately her glasses were broken when we opened up the box so now she is anxiously waiting for the replacement pair to arrive.  She also got Lego Friends “Mia's Magic Show”, all of the fairytale mini lalaloopsy dolls, Wizard of Oz mini lalaloopsy dolls, shrinky dinks and Wreck It Ralph Infinity figure.

Griffin got the new Disney Infinity start up pack and lots of playing figures.  He also got Skylanders for Xbox and a target for his bow and arrow, the game, Quirkle and the book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Some of his presents didn’t get here for Christmas so he got to open them the day after Christmas--a Kwanzaa miracle- a new tennis racquet, basketball and hexbug.

Gavin made his favorite Christmas breakfast meal -- overnight cinnamon french toast and we all enjoyed some before heading up to my parents’ house for another Christmas brunch and more gift exchanging.

Grandma and Grandpa spoiled their grandkids once again.  I guess that’s what grandparents do when it’s Christmas.

Grandma and Grandpa with all of their grandchildren (always miss out on having the Rushings)

And as always, I’m always relieved to have Christmas over.  It’s just a little bit more stressful as a mom than it was as a child.  It will be nice to get the Christmas stuff all put away and get ready for a new year!

Christmas Eve

We tried something new this year with our celebration on Christmas Eve.  We stayed home with our own little family instead of meeting up with extended family.  We started the night with a sit down dinner of ham and shrimp.  Mia and Griffin were so excited for it to finally be Christmas Eve.  They’ve been checking out the presents under the tree and counting down the days to get to Christmas Eve so they could finally open three gifts for the wisemen tradition.  Mia was my big helper. She helped me with setting the table and bringing up all of the Christmas dishes.  We got our glasses set up for sparkling cider and eggnog and then lit the candles.  A fun Christmas Eve toast and it was time to eat.

After dinner we got together to read the last Christmas story in our book, sang Silent Night with Ryan and Mia leading the music and then read about the birth of our Savior in Luke and Matthew.  After reading about the Wisemen in the Bible and discussing the symbolism of the three gifts that they brought to baby Jesus, the kids all got to open their 3 Wisemen gifts--gold (something fun), red (something sentimental) and green (something needed).

Jack got a UofU blanket, a driver’s license ornament (for turning 16 and getting his license and a crazy speeding ticket) and UofU pajamas.

Ryan got a BYU blanket, a Willow Tree ornament--“You will always have my heart” with a gold heart (for his golden birthday this year) and BYU pajamas.

Hadley got a Hunger Games bracelet, a Willow Tree ornament--“Dance of Life” (since she started up dance again this year) and Hunger Games pajamas (she’s slightly obsessed with Hunger Games).

Morgan got Frozen and Barbie books (and then ran off to the living room to read her new books and didn’t want to open up any other gifts), Toy Story Jessie ornament and Christmas pajamas.

Griffin got loom bands to make rubberband bracelets, Ninja ornaments (since he was a ninja for Halloween) and Christmas pajamas.

Mia got a “Dorothy" mini Lalaloopsy doll, the Wizard of Oz ornaments (since she was Dorothy for Halloween) and Christmas pajamas.

Then we set up cookies and milk for Santa, watched the movie “ELF" together and then off to bed.  Ready for Christmas.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Advent Activities

Day 1 {Advent Calendars}

Day 2 {Live Nativity}
This is one of my favorite Christmas activities.  We went on the first night to beat the storm that was coming.  We weren’t the only ones with this great idea. . . 2 hours later we finally got up to the front of the line and made our way into the building that was transformed into Bethlehem.  It was the sweetest thing to turn around the corner and see the baby with the light shining down on him.  He was lying in the manger, wrapped in a blanket and staring into his mother’s eyes.  Probably a lot like it looked 2000 years ago.

Day 3 {Decorate the Tree}
I wasnt’ excited about putting up all of the Christmas decorations this year.  I’ve been working a lot more which means the house has been severely neglected.  And the last thing I want to do when the house isn’t clean is to add more mess.  The kids brought up a box of decorations and I put that stuff up, the stockings, the Christmas scene on the piano and the nativity and called it good.  Didn’t even get to putting up the wreath or garland on the front door.  And I don’t think anyone noticed or cared.  So much stress that’s part of this time of year is self imposed and I opted for less stress this Christmas.  I even let the kids put up all of the ornaments on the tree.  Doesn’t look much different than when I do it and they had a lot more fun doing it.    

Day 4 {Festival of Trees}
We asked Mia and Griffin at the beginning of the Christmas season what their favorite advent activity is that we do each year and they both answered, “Festival of Trees!” so we made sure it was added to the list.  The big family activities just get harder and harder to keep up with as the kids get older.  Jack and Ryan prefer hanging out with their friends a lot more than hanging out with their parents.  They were not excited about this activity but warmed up to it to once they got there and saw a lot of kids from their school there, volunteering.  Mia wanted a picture in front of every tree that had a doll.  Most of the trees have dolls.  There are hundreds of trees.  I did my best but still couldn’t keep up with her demands and there were some tears of frustration.  Mia cried a little too.

Day 5 {Sound Of Music Live}
It gets to be too much to do something out of the house every night and I love when there are cute Christmas shows on the TV that we can watch together as a family.  Carrie Underwood’s voice was amazing and the acting was. . . well, I just think plays are not meant to be filmed and on TV but we still enjoyed a cozy night on the couch next to the warm fire.

Day 6 {Letters to Santa}
Morgan, Griffin and Mia wrote a letter to Santa and took it to Macy’s for the Make A Wish foundation.  Macy’s donated $1 for each letter mailed to Santa on this day.  Nothing compares to the sweet hand-written letters of children to Santa.

Griffin’s Letter:
“Dear Santa,
You might have gotten my other letter first but first what I want for christmas is Disney Infinity, Win U, but really I don’t care,
Love Griffin
P.S.  I think you’r on the nice list Lol!”

Mia’s Letter:
“Dear Santa,
I like Molly the Mercin Dall (American Girl doll).
I like the SaGe (Saige--another American Girl doll).
I like NcRacR (nutcracker)
I like the FrosiN Doll (Frozen doll).
I like LaGos FEs Na Mia (Lego’s Friends Named Mia).
I like OLaF
Love Mia 6766”

Morgan’s Letter:
“Dear Santa,
I want BarBie Books and Frozen Books
Love Morgan Seal”

Then we went home and watched, “Yes, Virginia”.

Day 7 {Play--Simple Gifts of Christmas}
We went back to the 4th ward for their Christmas dinner and play.  It felt like going home.  Morgan greeted everyone with hugs as she walked down each of the rows of tables.

Day 8 {Gingerbread Cookies with Grandma}

Day 9 {HOT tub and HOT Chocolate}
This is a favorite activity.  It was so cold outside and the perfect weather for hot tubbing and drinking hot chocolate right before bed.

Day 10 {Movie -- Disney Frozen}
This was our second time and the kids liked it even better than the first.  Morgan sang all of the songs the entire way home, deliriously happy.

Then she and Mia wanted to sing a few more songs before bed.  Mia’s favorite is, “Do you want to build a snowman?” and Morgan’s favorite is, “Let It Go”.  She was so excited when that song started in the movie and Elsa takes off her crown and throws it.  “Mom, it’s Let It Go.  She’s not a queen anymore!”


Day 11 {Hadley’s School Choir Concert}

Day 12 {Ware’s Christmas Party}

Day 13 {Sugar Cookies and Park City}
Hadley made sugar cookies with the little ones while we escaped for an over-nighter to Park City with our friends, the Steenbliks and Wilkos.  It was such a nice escape with yummy food, lots of late night games, hot tubbing and shopping.

Day 14 {Winter Formal, Church Dinner, Basketball}
Jack went to his High School’s girl choice winter formal with Olivia.  He said it was his favorite dance yet and so much fun.

We also had our ward dinner with a few songs from the Primary kids as we learned about Christmas traditions around the world.

Then Gavin took off with Ryan and went to the UofU vs BYU basketball game with friends and family.

Day 15 {Stewart Family Christmas}
The tradition that my Grandma Norma started 40 years ago continues today at my parents’ home.  We all get together with the Anderson family for dinner and a Christmas program.  Morgan loves when it’s her turn to read a part in front of everyone.

Day 16 {Desert Star Playhouse--Miracle on 42nd Street}
We love going to this theater for Christmas plays but this production wasn’t our favorite.  Always a great time to be with all of the family though.  We had to leave Mia and Griffin home after a mix up with the tickets and couldn’t buy any more because it had sold out.  They were happy to stay home and play with their cousins, Lilly and Luke.

Day 17 {Oops.  We may have skipped this day.  But Mia did have her Polar Express Party.}
or so I thought.  I sent her a day early to school in her pajamas and slippers.  She had a note in her hand when I picked her up from school letting me know that her Polar Express party would be the next day and to please not have her wear slippers.  Well at least Mia wasn’t the only one who wore her pajamas early and she didn’t complain about wearing pajamas to school two days in a row!

Day 18 {Gingerbread Houses}
I always think this will be so much better than it is.  We bought kits hoping that it would make the house building easier this year.  So you can imagine our disappointment when we opened the kits and found the sides of the houses all in pieces.  We tried to glue everything back together with the icing but after an hour of fighting with the walls and collapsed houses we had to pull out the big guns . . . the hot glue gun.  The houses finally stayed together but were no longer edible. (Thank you to Target for refunding our money on our broken kits).

Day 19 {Snow Day and Teacher Gifts}
Teacher gifts are another thing I simplified this year.  The kids ended up giving chocolate sticks with a gift card.  It didn’t take days or weeks to prepare and the kids were still just as excited to write out the gift tag and give it to their teachers the next day.  We were hit with tons of snow and tried to stay home as much as possible.  Cassidy dropped by for a few hours on her way home from college and then I drove her in the snowy weather back to the airport.

Day 20 {Seal Gift Exchange}
Trevor and Annie hosted the annual Seal family gift exchange.  We had a yummy potato bar and salads.  Then the gift exchange with the cousins and Nan and Papa.

Day 21 {The Nutcracker}
This tradition has just been with Hadley the last few years but I felt like it was time to invite the other two girls.  I was really nervous about Morgan and how she would do.  We go to the professional production in the big theater downtown.  The tickets are not cheap and it’s really quiet during the performance.  Morgan has a hard time with new, unknown settings and makes random, loud noises.  It usually stops after she adjusts to what is happening (everything around her) and then she does fine.  I was prepared to spend some time out in the lobby with her if needed.  We met up for dinner with the Seal girl cousins at Outback Steakhouse.  Morgan was complaining that everything was hurting, “my tummy hurts.  My nose hurts. (and on and on.)”  I was joking that I had brought Debbie Downer with me to dinner.  But as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant and pose for a picture, Morgan threw up.  Nothing is worse than trying to hide vomit from others enjoying a nice dinner out together.  We were able to take Avery with Morgan’s ticket and meet up with Gavin to take her home.  She was fine once she got home.  Not sure what was going on.  Maybe it was too much for her too! Mia loved it and has been learning about the different dances in her ballet class.  I tried to explain part of the ballet to her and she responded, “I already know, Mom.  I’ve seen the movie!"

Day 22 {Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt.  Hot Chocolate.  Games}
We love this sort of annual tradition with the DeBrys.  This year we separated and had a timed scavenger hunt.  We didn’t choose a very decorated neighborhood and ended up not finding very many on the list.  But we did get the grinch!  After the scavenger hunt we met up at their house for yummy hot chocolate and some games -- the candy bar game and the name game.

Day 23 {Christmas Adam -- Roller Skating and Bounce House}
Our plans changed from outdoor ice skating to indoor roller skating.  Much warmer and easier with 3 little ones who don’t know how to do either.

And we did it. These activities keep us busy but are usually full of great memories (mixed with screaming kids fighting in the car).  I don’t think the kids got to bed on time one night in December.  Very little homework was done.  A few minutes of piano practicing here and there.  But that’s what December is all about.  At least I hope it is.